Adrenal Fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms - known as a syndrome - resulting from loss of adequate function in your adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands are responsible for all of your responses to stress as well as the production of key sex and stress hormones.
Adrenal fatigue is largely associated with its hallmark symptom; extreme tiredness or fatigue that is not relieved by sleep or rest. It can occur following an acute bout of stress or illness or as the result of chronic and prolonged exposure to stress with insufficient self-management. In short, it can happen to anyone at anytime.
So what can we do in regards to our lifestyle choices to help prevent, or recover from, adrenal fatigue?
The two key things to consider when making lifestyle adjustments are your sleep hygiene - quality AND quantity - and your exercise choices. For the purpose of this blog, I will address them separately.
Given the number one symptom of adrenal fatigue is a loss of energy and increased tiredness - even after a good night’s rest - sleep is critical to adrenal recovery.
Along with adrenal fatigue, insufficient sleep has been linked to weight gain, insulin resistance, and even elevated risk of premature death.
To maximise the benefits of you sleep, aim to sleep in line with your natural body clock. This means winding down by 9 pm. Lights out at 10 and rising with the dawn at 6am. Interestingly, this notion also supports the idea that we need more sleep during certain seasons. In winter when your immunity is compromised, go to bed earlier and rise a little later.
Try to block out as much artificial light as possible. Lights from street lamps outside, passing vehicles or security lights all mess with our circadian rhythms. Invest in some blackout curtains, especially if you have trouble drifting off each night.
Switch off from technology at least one hour before bed. Turning technology off two hours before bed allows your mind to settle and provides you with a buffer of space in which you aren’t constantly ‘available’. Read a good old fashioned book instead.
If you struggle sleeping, consider supplementing with Magnesium. Foods high in magnesium include nuts, cheese, cacao and dark leafy greens. You could also soak in an Epsom salts bath - using that time you have free from your smartphone - or investing in a quality magnesium product.
Avoiding caffeine as part of your adrenal fatigue recovery will also help you with consistent and quality sleep.
We can try and fill our days with exercise, healthy meals, social interaction and a fulfilling work life but if we aren’t sleeping we can potentially undo all this good work with low energy, elevated cortisol levels and extreme food cravings.
Exercise is important for healthy body systems. It activates the lymphatic system to help the body’s detox pathways, it’s critical for mood and can help increase insulin sensitivity. However, stress is stress whether we perceive the action to be stressful or not. Chronic intense exercise is incredibly stressful on our bodies.
Intense exercise has it’s place. High intensity interval training can improve mitochondrial function and improve your metabolism, but it needs to be short, intense and relatively infrequent with lots of recovery time. Think twice per week for twenty minutes or less, not boot camp every morning for one hour.
In a person with optimally functioning adrenals, high-intensity exercise can be a helpful addition to their wellness regime. For those of us with compromised adrenal function scaling back our exercise routine is critical for recovery. Contrary to conventional thought, doing less may actually result in weight loss as your hormones normalise.
It's important to keep moving, but opt for walking, yoga or pilates. You don't need to stress your body right now with intense HIIT or weight training. If you still want to continue with weights, scale back the intensity - maybe focus on body weight exercises - and lift less frequently with more recovery.
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